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News Briefs

Clinton Attempts to Convince Syrian President to Continue Peace Talks


President Clinton talked by telephone with Syrian President Hafez Assad for almost an hour Tuesday in a determined effort to persuade Syria to resume interrupted Middle East peace talks.

Clinton’s call to the wily Syrian autocrat came as Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright predicted that Israel and Syria eventually will overcome half a century of animosity and sign a formal peace treaty, despite the indefinite postponement of high-level negotiations that had been scheduled to resume Wednesday.

Albright and nongovernmental Middle East experts said Assad’s objective in delaying the talks was almost certainly to gain procedural advantage, not to torpedo the peace process, which seems closer to success than at any time since the creation of the Israeli state in 1948.

“The logic of peace has become compelling” for both Syria and Israel, Albright said.

Kohl Resigns Party Post in Disgrace


Former chancellor Helmut Kohl resigned Tuesday as honorary chairman of the Christian Democratic Union, adding to the turmoil embroiling the party that for much of the country’s post-World War II history has been an anchor of Germany’s stability.

Within the past two months, as revelations of illegal party donations and secret slush funds have sullied the reputations of Kohl and other party leaders, the Christian Democrats have become synonymous with sleaze. Facing its worst crisis, the party seems so traumatized by the funding scandal that it now fears for its own survival.

At a five-hour emergency session Tuesday, party executives rejected the resignation of party leader Wolfgang Schaeuble, who recently acknowledged that he accepted a $52,000 donation from a shadowy arms dealer. Instead, they turned with a vengeance on Kohl, demanding that he quit as the honorary chairman of the party he has dominated for 25 years unless he reveals the identity of those who gave him $520,000 in secret campaign funds while he served as chancellor.

Since admitting last month that he broke the law by taking the unreported cash, Kohl has insisted that he gave his “word of honor” to the donors that he would never make their names public. Within hours of receiving the ultimatum, Kohl surrendered his party position, but showed no willingness to clear up the mystery of who gave him the money.

Government Investigators Unfairly Treated Lee, Attorney Complains


Federal investigators deceived former Los Alamos physicist Wen Ho Lee into agreeing to a polygraph examination last February and then mistreated him throughout the so-called lie detector session, causing him to fail, his lawyer argued in a closed hearing before a federal judge.

A transcript of the Dec. 29 hearing, newly released by the Justice Department, reveals some details of the government’s case against Lee but also shows that the FBI used highly aggressive tactics in pursuing him.

FBI agent Robert A. Messemer acknowledged during the bail hearing in New Mexico before U.S. District Judge James A. Parker that investigators misled Lee about the polygraph session, telling him they needed his “help” with an investigation into China’s alleged theft of information about America’s W-88 nuclear warhead. Only moments before the test did the investigators inform the 60-year-old scientist that he was an espionage suspect.